"When you’re in a war zone and you have mortar rounds and rockets and car bombs going off non-stop, the last thing you’re thinking about is the air you breathe."
More than a decade later, though, breathing is something Veronica Landry constantly thinks about.
She’s on a strict diet, workout, and vitamin regimen to help combat her respiratory bronchiolitis.
"I have a smoker’s disease. More than 90% of the time, that’s who gets this is someone who smoked for decades. I’ve never smoked in my life."
Landry says her lung disease is a result of inhaling toxins from burn pits, while working as a contractor in Iraq between 2004-2005.
And last month, a judge agreed, determining AIG–the insurance company used by Landry’s former employer–should be financially responsible for her medical bills, both retroactively and in the future.
"It has been a long struggle to get all the medical care paid for. I had to do all of that on my own," Landry told News5.
But she wants to make sure other veterans and contractors won’t have to. Landry plans on setting up another facebook page to offer resources for those in a similar situation.
"They don’t even know where to start," she said, while describing some of the people that had already reached out to her on social media.
"They don’t know they need to hire an attorney or that it’s paid for through the Defense Base Act."
Landry won’t receive any disability compensation, but says this still feels like a huge victory.
"The most important thing about this judgment is that now it will help other contractors and veterans use this case in their cases to show this is a legitimate disease process," she explained.
Her personal battle, though, continues.
"Will I be on oxygen in five years? Will I need to have another open lung biopsy? We don’t know. So there’s a lot of unknowns that’s really scary about this progressive disease."